Elizabeth Esty, Saying She Mishandled Abuse Claim, Won’t Defend House Seat
Representative Esty, 58, disputed none of Ms. Kain’s allegations. On Monday, she asked the House Ethics Committee to review how her office handled the allegations against Mr. Baker, and his termination in 2016, a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said was appropriate.
Ms. Kain said Mr. Baker began to sexually harass and verbally abuse her when he became her boss in 2014, and once punched her at work. He repeatedly threatened to punish her if she came forward, she said.
“He would threaten that if I ever told anyone or if I ever went to the Ethics Committee, he would prevent me from ever working in politics again,” she said in an email. She said Mr. Baker also told her that if she reported the abuse, Representative Esty “would lose re-election.”
“She was my hero and that thought was too much to bear,” Ms. Kain said. She declined to comment on Representative Esty’s decision not to seek re-election.
Representative Esty’s announcement on Monday was welcomed by Connecticut’s Democratic establishment, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who called her decision “the right one.”
“The truth is, too many facts about how this incident was handled fall short of appropriate standards for responsible and responsive leadership,” the governor said in a statement.
The announcement also offered a potential opening to Republicans. Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said his party would contest her seat, which covers territory represented by a Republican, Nancy Johnson, from 1983 to 2007.
The abuse allegations, and Representative Esty’s response to them, were reported last week by The Washington Post and The Connecticut Post, which said Mr. Baker stayed on the congresswoman’s staff for three months after the accusations first emerged.
In a statement last week in which she referred to Ms. Kain, Ms. Esty said she had “failed to protect her and provide her with the safe and respectful work environment that every employee deserves.”
She said an investigation conducted after Ms. Kain came forward found “the threat of violence was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff.”
Mr. Baker declined a request to be interviewed on Monday, but through a spokesman, Andrew Ricci, said that he disputed none of Ms. Kain’s allegations except for the claim that he had punched her.
Mr. Ricci said Mr. Baker is a recovering alcoholic who had been “blackout drunk” when he called Ms. Kain on May 5, 2016, and left a voice mail message threatening to kill her.
Mr. Ricci said Mr. Baker continued to work in Representative Esty’s office until July 24, 2016, and attended the Democratic National Convention with her that month. He remained on her payroll until August 12.
Mr. Ricci said Mr. Baker and Representative Esty spent much of that three-month period in consultation with the House Employment Counsel, which advised both parties to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Mr. Baker has been in an alcoholism treatment program since May 2016 and had also been in treatment for anger management at the congresswoman’s behest. In a statement, Mr. Baker said she “was the only person who stopped to ask me how I was doing and urged me to get help beyond just becoming sober.”
Mr. Baker received a $5,000 severance package when he was fired, Mr. Ricci said. Representative Esty later acted as a reference when he was hired to do advocacy work in Ohio for Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun group founded after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which happened in Representative Esty’s district.
Mr. Baker began working for Sandy Hook Promise in the late summer or early fall of 2016 and was fired last week, Mr. Ricci said. The organization said on Monday that he did not work there but declined to say whether he ever had.
News credit : Nytimes